One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Human Rights in Eastern India

February 14, 2013

Kartam Joga
Former prisoner of conscience and Adivasi rights activist Kartam Joga has been released in India.© Private

This week brought a rare bit of good news for human rights in the poor, rural, tribal districts of eastern India. After spending over two years in jail on false charges, human rights activist Kartam Joga was finally acquitted of all charges. Like Binayak Sen, TG Ajay, Kopa Kunjam, Ramesh Agrawal, and Harihar Patel before him, the government of Chhattisgarh tried to silence Kartam Joga for daring to demand that human rights and democratic principles be respected in Chhattisgarh. And once again, the courts found that the state had no case.

But that hasn’t stopped Chhattisgarh from continuing to imprison peaceful critics. Journalist Lingaram Kodopi and activist Soni Sori – both tortured by police – remain in custody after over a year in jail (Act here to demand their release).

Like Chhattisgarh, nearby states Orissa and Jharkhand frequently turn to brutal intimidation and the unlawful jailing of those who challenge their authority by standing up for human rights. The most recent and appalling case is that of community journalist and anti-mining organizer Aparna Marandi and her 4-year old son who have been in jail in Jharkhand since December 8. AI believes that she has been ill-treated in custody, and is at risk of torture. Friends and family have been unable to visit her, and authorities have said nothing about her condition or the charges against her (Sign AIUSA’s letter to the Jharkhand authorities here). And in Orissa, those protesting against Vedanta’s bauxite mine and aluminum factory and the enormous POSCO steel plant have been jailed, threatened, and beaten by police.

States waging war are notoriously bad at respecting human rights. So are massive corporations, especially in the extractives industry. Both must be held accountable. And we must support the people on the front lines. Please act today!